One For My Fellow Sock Knitters – This Is How I Do It

Hi there. Today I have something to show to my fellow sock knitters – it’s a little trick I do and that I teach in my sock class, so nothing special, unless you had to deal with those pesky holes before and want to try to avoid them. When you knit socks and just finished the heel, you get to pick up the stitches for the gusset. Which is to pick up one stitch into each selvedge stitch you created on the heel flap. I cheat a bit when I do that. Let’s have a look:

IMG_9854I pick up the stitches as usual, except for the last one.

IMG_9861For the last one, I skip the selvedge stitch and look for the regular stitch in the row below – see the beige one with the circle.

IMG_9864See? That’s where you want to pick up the last stitch.

IMG_9870When you have knit the stitches of the top of the foot, it is time to pick up the stitches for the gusset on the other side of the heel flap. Look for the corresponding stitch on this side and pick up there, not in the first selvedge stitch.

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See? The arrow shows the little gap that is made by skipping the first selvedge stitch. When you are done that, you pick up the rest of your stitches as you would.

This way, there will be virtually no holes between the the heel flap and top of the sock, and the slightly larger gaps are closed neatly on the next row. This is how I do it!

Dear non-sock-knitters, please forgive the lack of information for you today, yet this is something I have wanted to share for a while. Now, if you feel like you want to become a sock knitter, guess what? There is a class coming up. Starting May 25th I’ll be teaching how to knit a sock – with double pointed needles and cuff down.

Give us a ring if you want to join, there are a few spaces left!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

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WWMD*

Today another edition of *What Would Mona Do.

As  you might have heard me say, I do love knitting with linen. I do like the crisp fabric – often called ‘scratchy’, however, I don’t think it is – of 100% linen. Everything that follows is valid for 100% linen, not mixes, not cotton, I am talking about LINEN. We have a variety of 100% linen at the store:

Euroflax Sport from Louet – it is wet spun and very crisp

Sparrow from Quince – spun from organic flax in Belgium

Kestrel from Quince – a ribbon yarn, also from organic flax

Linen from Shibui – a chainette, which makes it extra crisp

Don’t get me wrong, linen is not soft as cashmere or silk, but, and this is a big BUT, it gets softer and softer with wear. Every time you wash your linen it softens up more – up to a point when you cannot imagine it was ever really ‘crisp’ because all that is left is softness.

One way to get your linen softer sooner – and yes, that is the WWMD part of the post – is to wash it in the washing machine. On cold, if that makes you feel better, however, I am of the opinion linen is linen and can take warm water.

If you want to be sure that nothing untoward happens to your sweater (or whatever it is you want to soften) take your swatch and throw it into the next color wash you have to do.

This way you will figure out if the mechanical wash does impact your knitting – makes it grow or shrink lengthwise. It happens more to knits that are worked in a looser gauge, because there is just more leeway to do one or the other. When your item comes out of the washer, just pull it into form and lay flat to dry as ever.

Disclaimer: What follows is not for the faint of heart and I am not saying you should do it, all I am saying is: I did it.

I dried my Quince Sparrow sweater in the dryer on low. When I got it out it felt like it compacted a bit, but with wear it expanded again. If you do that,  you do not have any control about pulling it into the shape you want it, because when it is dry it is dry and the shape cannot be changed – until the next wash, when you get another chance to pull it into form when wet.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Fine Tuning

Let’s talk a bit about VHS tapes. Yes, I am aware that ‘VHS’ is not what comes to mind first when hearing the term ‘tuning’ but since I am more familiar with VHS tapes than cars, this analogy will have to do. Do the lot of you even remember VHS tapes?

My VHS remote control had two buttons, side by side, that said ‘tune’ above them. With those you could try to improve the picture, if you thought it was off. Mostly it worked, other than DVD’s and Blueray discs that you pop in the player and hope that it will run properly and none of the digital data is corrupt since there is not much you can do.

I bet you are wondering now what VHS tapes have to do with knitting. Well, nothing really, apart from the tuning. There are a few things you can do to fine tune your knitting – or, if you will – your knitting knowledge.

Today we are going to learn about ‘sl1’. Easy, right? ‘Slip 1’ is the explanation when you look it up in the legend. Let’s pretend you have never slipped a stitch. How would you go about it?

Slipping a stitch means essentially moving a stitch without knitting it. Okay, that you get. But now you start thinking. Or not. Maybe you just go ahead and slip it as if to knit, meaning you insert your needle knit wise and slip it over to the other needle. There. Slip 1. What you missed here is that when you slip a stitch knit wise, you twist it. If you look at it closely, you will see that the ‘legs’ of the stitch are crossed. And they are not meant to be crossed, they should be open, so when you pull the stitch, the stitch opens up more widely.

I am going to fine tune your knitting now. Get this:

If a pattern says ‘sl1’ you always slip purl wise, unless the pattern says otherwise, i.e. knit wise.

When you slip a stitch purl wise, it just gets moved from one needle to the other. Sans twisting.

So from now on pay attention if the pattern just says ‘sl1’ (i.e. purl wise), or if it says ‘sl 1 knit wise’. It seems a small thing, but it is important.

On that note, happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Take Good Care Of Your Stash

If you consider yourself a serious knitter, building a stash is unavoidable, really. I cannot explain it. It just so happens. You’ll buy yarn that you won’t use right away – and that is called ‘stash’. Granted, some stashes are larger than others and some contain only left over yarns from projects, but they all have something in common: they need to be stored.

I have yarn that I like to have on display, because I do love looking at it and it inspires me. Then there is the yarn (sweaters’ worth of yarn) that cannot be displayed in a pleasing manner and that needs to be stored or ‘stashed’ away.

Over the years I have tried several methods to store my stash. Sorting it by colours turned out to be a desaster (at least for me) because I was always looking for another colour of that particular yarn and somehow it did not make as much sense to me as I thought it would. So I have settled on sorting my stash by weight. That works well for me. It really depends on your sense of order how to arrange or organize your yarn – I do have a couple of tips, though! Most of these come from my personal experience, a lot is what I choose to do – so remember, if you have different preferences, do it however you like! 🙂

Yarn likes to breathe.

Have you ever noticed how loosely yarn is usually wound into a skein? (There are exceptions, I have to admit. I have one skein of Wollmeise Sock yarn that is so tightly wound that I am sure you can knock someone out if you had to!) This is most important for natural fibers like wool, alpaca, any animal fiber that has elasticity, actually. If you do not plan to use the yarn soon, you better leave it in skeins. If your sense of order requires the yarn to be wound, make sure you do not wind it too tightly. If you wind elastic fibers to tightly, they’ll stretch while they wait to be knitted. Now, please do not misunderstand me: this does not hurt the yarn itself, once washed it bounces right back. However, if you knit with yarn that has been stretched during storage, your gauge will change significantly after washing! If it is too tightly wound the yarn flattens out and thins during storage, knitting with that might be quite different from knitting with a properly stored yarn. Cotton, Linen and non-stretchy fibers are – if not excluded – due to their rigid nature not in too much danger of changing a lot.

However, plastic bins for storage are fine.

Yes, I know, I said yarn likes to breathe – but I explained what I meant with that, and apart from winding it too tightly, yarn stored in plastic bins will be just fine. That is what I do. Sometimes I even put the pattern together with the yarn in one of those extra large zip-loc bags. So I won’t forget what I had planned to knit with it. Plastic bins keep the dust out, so do plastic bags.

There is no SPF for yarn.

Remember that when you have yarn in your living room or any other room, come to that. If there are spots in that  room that get hit by the sun, try to avoid putting yarn there. Especially cotton and silk, but wool also if always exposed from the same side to direct sunlight, will fade – even when in a plastic bag. Your yarn will stay pretty if not exposed to direct sun light.

Avoid snags.

Are you a fan of baskets? I am. Very much so. When it comes to storing yarn, you definitely want a basket that is covered in fabric on the inside, or even plastic, if need be. If it is not, there will be snags – and they are not pretty! If there is no fabric cover to be had, make sure there are no pieces sticking out, meaning that the insides of the basket are smooth, otherwise you can damage your yarn.

Make sure you get no unwanted visitors.

Some of us do not have a big space and no generous closet or big shelf to put all of our yarn. This often means that some of the stash is relegated to the basement. To avoid getting visitors we do not want, you can put Lavender sachets in the plastic bins, cedar blocks are good for yarns that are mostly wool – and then I recommend to check every once in a while if everything is in order. (I brought some yarn from Germany when coming to the US and later Canada and learned the hard way that it doesn’t have to be moths that damage the yarn. I do not know what kind of bug it was, but my 100% wool yarn was damaged and not usable anymore.)

Revisit, revise.

Yes, I know. There are some yarns we bought years ago and we would have just such a hard time letting go. Or so we think. When I find a yarn like that, I try to find a project for it that I would really love. If I can’t find one, I usually let it go. It depends on how long it has been sitting in my stash. This is the hard part, I know. But I have also learned long since that letting go can be very liberating, and also, I make space for more, newer stash…

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Those Pesky Sticks

Also called Double Pointed Needles.

As I have mentioned before, and probably more often than you might want to hear, I do love knitting socks on dpns. Love it. Can’t get enough of it.

Having said as much, when I got started I had most certainly the same issues that you have when you get started knitting with five needles at once. Well, you don’t really. You still only knit with two, the other three just hang about. And that is the issue.

The result are often extra yarn overs, weirdly twisted stitches, a hole in your finger…nah, the last one never really happened! I am not saying you cannot poke a hole with dpns, I am just saying I have never encountered my students hurting themselves like that, maybe it is only me who thought it was a good idea to sit down on the couch while not paying attention to the sock on the go and thus ramming a needle in my thigh…(It stuck, I had to pull it out. That was gross. And it hurt.)

Teaching how to knit socks on dpns has taught me a lot, also. The most important fact – and the one I am sharing today – is that the order of the needles, meaning which one is on top and which is below, is very important. In fact, it is so important that your enjoyment of knitting with dpns depends on it.

Hence this post. So let’s get to it.

If you have ever tried to knit in the round with dpns you are sure to have experienced the frustration that goes on while working on the first few rounds. All the needles seem to be in the way, the knitted fabric does not look like anything and the sticks, well the sticks seem to stick out all over and are in every which way in your way. Yeah, I feel you.

Being a Continental knitter I have figured out a system that works for me – and not surprisingly this system is going to work for you also – if you do the opposite of what I do, because most of you carry the yarn English style, meaning with your right hand.

What I am going to tell you is probably going to sound a bit confusing – once your sit down and you are doing, or actually trying it, all will become clear. (Isn’t that often the truth?)

The trick is to keep the needles in the ‘correct’ order, in this case deciding which needle is ‘under’ and which is ‘over’.

To make it easier for you to understand what I am talking about, I have put my just started sock on four different colored needles. 

IMG_9653Please pay attention to how the needles are arranged: The orange needle lies on top of the pink one where you start to knit, meaning once you start knitting the pink one will be below the orange one and hence out of the way and the chance of getting your yarn tangled around it practically non-existent. (I do the opposite. If it was me knitting, I would hold the orange needle below the pink.)

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When knitting, it looks like this:

(Sorry for the weird angle, it is hard to photograph this!)

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The most important thing is that the orange working needle in the right hand is above (here rather: behind) the pink one.

As long as you pay attention to that order, knitting with dpns will be much easier than expected, and most probably improved if you were doing it differently.

I know. Small change, big difference.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

One Rule To Follow

If you asked me, I would answer that there are no ‘rules’ in knitting. You can do (knit) whatever you want and do it any style you like.

However, there are rules around the knitting that I highly recommend to follow. Especially the one I am going to talk about today.

I don’t do Math well. Really, ask me about calculus of probabilities, graphs with x, y and z thingies going on, anything more complicated than the multiplication table, and my eyes glaze over. Then again, there is one rule I can handle, one that gets used every day of my knitting life, one I cannot do without:

The Rule Of Three.

That’s my kind of math.

Here I pick up where I left off last week. Remember the scale? So you just found out that you have 67 grams left over, and your new pattern asks for 250 yds of yarn. If you have the information from the label how many yards are in 100 grams of yarn, you totally can figure that out!

100 grams = 400 yds

67 grams = x

Ok, you say, but how do I get x? Here is where you have to remember your school days, and how to use the Rule Of Three:

67 times 400 divided by 100 = 268, which is x, meaning you just figured out that you have enough yarn.

Check here to make it real easy.

Rule Of Three – useful in oh, so many ways.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

 

Smoothing edges

Continuing with my quest to bring you useful knitting tips and tricks I have thought about what to show you next. Considering what I had knit lately and what is going on in the store, I realized it might be good to give you a brush up on how to shape a neckline on a garment.

This task is, as many others, not really difficult. However, there are a few pointers I can give you that are prone to make the finishing a bit easier.

Here I have an example how the instructions for a neckline can look like:

Neckline shaping

Work 68 (72, 78, 82, 86, 92) sts as established, bind off 12 sts, work to end of row. From here work both fronts separately. Work WS on right front. Bind off 4 sts on neck edge once, then 2 sts 3 times. On next RS row, k1, ssk, knit to end. Work WS row. Repeat these two rows 4 (4, 5, 6, 7, 7) times more. Work 4 rows even. Repeat decrease row once more and work until armhole measures 7.5 (8, 9, 10, 10.5, 11)”. Place sts on holder.

Left front: Bind off 4 sts on neck edge once, then 2 sts 3 times. On next RS row, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. Work WS row. Repeat these two rows 4 (4, 5, 6, 7, 7) times more. Work 4 rows even. Repeat decrease row once more and work until armhole measures 7.5 (8, 9, 10, 10.5, 11)”. Place sts on holder.

If you have knit a garment before, this is no news to you. Now you get to see how I do the above – not with the same stitch count, but the idea is definitely the same.

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First, you knit to the point where you are supposed to bind off the stitches for neckline. Unless it is a very specific design it will be a certain number of the middle stitches, i.e. they have the same count of stitches on both sides left. Here I have 40 sts, and I am going to bind off the 10 in the middle, meaning I knit 15 before starting to bind off.

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At this point you either bind off with the yarn you have been working with, which means you are going to have to join fresh when continuing on the other half (which is the left front), or, you start a new ball right away and leave the end to finish what is the left front. Both works, and it really doesn’t matter.

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Knit to the end of row, then work the WS row.

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Turn work and slip the first stitch purlwise. Slipping that first stitch will give you a smoother edge on the neckline. Otherwise you get ‘steps’. Then bind off the required amount of stitches.

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Always slip the first stitch before binding off.

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After having bound off all the stitches, there might be some decreases to work. Finish with a WS and then bind off on the RS (unless the pattern says differently.)

Now to the other half of the front, also called left front:

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On WS, slip the first stitch in preparation of the bind off.

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Join the yarn.

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Then bind off the required amount of stitches. Work to end of row. Work RS row and continue with shaping as written in pattern.

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There. A neckline ready to pick up stitches.

You might find written ‘working both sides at the same time’. I am not fond of this instruction. What it basically means, is that you work one row of the right front, then one row of the left front – because the stitches still sit on the same needle, and so you finish at the same time – well, one after another, but basically both are done. I prefer to do one front after the other, this, however, is preference, as so many things in knitting.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Simple Pleasures

It is always a pleasure to finish a project. However, as I have said before, you are not finished until you have finished. When the knitting is done, there is always more to do. And don’t I know it!

Most of the time there are straightforward methods to make your project look great, other times you’ll sit there and be stumped because you don’t really know what to do and how the hell are you supposed to close that gap with that loose stitch and, oh, I’ll do it later…and two months later it will still sit there and look at you reproachfully. (Or so you feel. Wait. Maybe I need to write: Or so I feel? It’s not that I haven’t done this before.)

Today I am going to help you out with a small thing. Because sometimes it is the small things that make a difference.

I have knit a Puerperium Cardigan (I might have knit two. They are small and addictive!) and brought it to my Finishing Class to show how to, well, finish it. At that time I became aware again that I do things automatically that a lot of knitters do not know about. Small things. Simple fixes. I do not think about them in particular, I just do them. But when I show them to other knitters they are pleasantly surprised that there is actually a method to make that gap disappear nicely – and that it is not difficult at all.

All the knitting is done, I have bound off the lower edge and the sleeves which are knit in the round. Now all it needs is to weave in the ends and close the gap of the bind-off round.

Here is what I showed them.

First of all, when you bind off, no matter what, you end up with that last loop. The last stitch just sits there as a loop. I know what you are going to do next. You take the end of your yarn, pull it through the loop once more and pull tight and it looks like this:

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This is not what I do.

I do this.

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This is what is left after binding off all stitches.

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Cut the yarn and start pulling on your needle.

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Keep doing that until the end pulls out.

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Now it looks like this. See the difference?

Now you are set up to finish nicely. You won’t ever go back to the other way once you know this. (I certainly hope so.)

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Take your tapestry needle and thread your end.

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Look for the first stitch you bound off, i.e. at the beginning of the round.

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Insert you needle from the RS into the bound off stitch, pull you yarn through.

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Go back to the stitch you bound off last and insert your needle as if to complete another bind off.

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Pull until the stitch you just made looks like the rest of the bind-off edge, then weave your end in on the WS.

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And that is it. Need I say more?

Happy knitting, as ever!

Mona

Knit, Purl – However You Please

As you might have figured out at this point (after reading posts like this one, this one or this one here) I do love my long-tail cast-on. It is pretty, it is versatile (though not for everything, as you can see well enough here), gives you a stretchy edge and it is really not that difficult to learn. I bet once you know how to do it you won’t go back.

You would think by now I have shown everything that can be done casting on with this method – but wait, there’s more!!

I do consider myself a fastidious knitter, sometimes you might call me even pedantic, and yes, I do like my knitting to be just so. So when I am knitting a piece that needs to be reversible, I like to have it look pretty from both sides. Not only pretty, but – gasp! – looking the same on both sides. Most of the time there are ways to achieve this. Sometimes there are not.

However, there is a way of doing the long-tail cast-on to make it look exactly the same on both sides. If you are interested in how to do it, please do read on. If not – well, let’s just say: You’re missing out!

The presupposition here is that your knitted piece starts with a rib. No matter which kind, if 1×1, 2×2 or whatever combination you want to choose.

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This is a 2×2 rib done with a regular long-tail cast-on.

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This is a 2×2 rib done with a knit/purl long-tail cast-0n. 100% reversible.

To achieve the reversible look, you have to alternate between casting on the regular way and the reverse way. Here is how:

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For the reversed cast-on insert your needle under the thread by your index from the back.

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Then insert your needle from below under the strand by your thumb to make a stitch.

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Now, just as for the regular way, go back where you started from and pull your stitch tight.

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There, one purl stitch made.

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Repeat as needed and depending on what kind of rib you want to knit.

For a 1×1 rib you switch for every stitch, for the 2×2 rib, cast on two stitches the regular way, then two the reverse way. This you can do for any combination in any way you want. When you start knitting the rib, knit the knit stitches, and purl over the purl bumps formed by the cast-on. This way, the rib looks exactly the same from both sides – 100% reversible, if need be.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

On The Edge

When I started knitting sweaters, my Mother insisted on knitting a ribbed cuff – and I had to use a smaller needle for the rib to make it nice and tidy. It was the 80’s and even then I rebelled against the “you have to knit like that”. When I proposed to just start knitting to have the Stockinette Stitch roll a bit (a cool, edgy look, I thought then) my Mother was appalled and said “you cannot do that”. Hah. Tell me what I cannot do and I’ll do it just to prove you otherwise. (Especially when being a teenager. You know what I am talking about. Don’t you?)

Anyways. Look at knitting patterns now and you’ll find plenty edges, ribs, rolls and whatnots. And I do think that is exactly how it is supposed to be – a ribbed cuff is just not enough!

However, there is a place for ribbed cuffs and there are different ways to knit them. I get asked often which rib is ‘better’ – the 1×1 or the 2×2? Then I have to say – as so often – there is no ‘better’ there is only preference. Whichever you like best when it comes to the knitting and the look after, that is the one you pick. A garter edge is very common also, as is the rolled edge. There are advantages to each, then again you want to consider a few things before deciding which one to use. Today I have a few for  you to review – to pick and choose for your next project.

1×1 rib

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1×1 rib, can be knit loose or tight depending on what you want. Choose a smaller size needle to get an even and neat look.

2×2 rib

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2×2 rib – not better than 1×1, I just prefer the look when knitting socks.

any other ‘uneven’ rib like 1×3, 2×5 etc.

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This is 3×1 rib, any combination is possible. The higher the knit portion, the flatter the rib.

garter

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Quite common, easy to do. Do not forget to use a smaller needle for garter edges, since garter is a bit wider than Stockinette Stitch on the same size needle.

1×1 through the back loop

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Working this you have to get used to, the purls are also worked in the back loop. Embossed, crisp look, though less stretchy.

cable rib

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Very decorative, not that common but a good choice if you want something a bit different.

There are more options, Seed Stitch is one to consider. As is Moss Stitch or Double Moss. If you have a stitch dictionary you know that there is a whole section about rib stitches, there is garter rib, diagonal rib, and even chevron ribs. It all depends on the look you are going for.

Maybe this inspires you to try something else for your next project, otherwise it is good to know that there is more than ‘just plain rib’. (Whatever that means.)

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Centerpull, not Centerfold

I wager our Great-Grandmothers would feel right at home at Espace Tricot when it comes to the put up of the yarns. Most of our yarns come in hanks and need to be wound into balls before knitting. I have met one or two knitters who were using the yarn straight from the hank without winding, however, this is not something I would recommend! Usually you end up with a big tangled mess that takes forever to undo. I myself remember winding yarn from hanks in the 80’s, together with my Mom I did spend quite a few hours doing just that.

Winding yarn can be a contemplative exercise, your thoughts can stray pleasantly to all the possibilities hidden in the strands of fiber, maybe a hat? a sweater? a shawl? will come into existence once you are done with the work. I have to admit, when I have a particular scrumptious yarn, I do like to wind by hand, otherwise I prefer using mechanical help.

The lucky knitters among us (I am one of them) have an umbrella swift and a yarn winder right at home, for the ones who do not we do offer to set you up for winding your hanks into balls (or yarn cakes, doesn’t that sound good?) at the store, I recommend doing it yourself, it is good to know how!

What you get when you remove your little ‘cake’ from the winder, is a ball that you can either begin using from the outside, or you can start knitting from the inside, making it a ‘centerpull’.

There are advantages to both – using yarn from the outside prevents the ball from getting flimsier and collapsing once you have used a lot of the yarn, then again, when pulling more yarn the ball might roll away. Which it would not do when the yarn is pulled from the inside, but there’s a slightly larger danger of tangling and said collapse when most of the ball is used up. Using yarn from the outside or centerpull is built on preference – do as you like, there is no set rule!

This post is for those of you who do not have a swift and ball winder at home but love to use their yarn centerpull. Yes, there is a way to wind a centerpull ball at home – just with your hands. As with everything you can buy a tool to help, it is called a Nostepinne, but I do without. Instead, I use my thumb. Whatever else do we have them for, eh?

Start with winding the yarn around your thumb, leaving a tail of about 6″. Do not wind too tightly, a blue thumb is neither comfortable nor pretty!

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Then start winding your yarn diagonally. The trick is to shift the yarn around your thumb so you can wind all around, all the while making sure to leave the end hanging.

Winding

Continue winding. Round and round, keeping your thumb inside the ball, until you have wound all the yarn.

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I hate to admit it, but this is all there is to it. It takes some practise, but even if your balls do not look very pretty at the beginning, you will definitely be able to use them as a centerpull – which was the objective in the first place.

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Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Left, then right – no, the OTHER right!

Ever rode shotgun with a map in your lap and tried to navigate the driver through the unknown city you are in? I have plenty of times.

Ever felt like that with your knitting pattern? I have plenty of times also (especially after I started reading patterns written in English), though I have usually managed to find my way.

Today we are learning about the difference between left and right. Yes, you heard me. To avoid future troubles on the road I am going to tell you exactly how to work a left and right slanted increase. The dreaded M1L (Make 1 Left) and M1R (Make 1 Right).

There are many ways to add stitches to your knitting and a lot of designers love this particular pair because they are elegant and unobtrusive and point, you guessed it, to the left and to the right, meaning they can be used mirrored. Which in return is a fabulous design element. That’s why you find them in a lot of patterns lately – be it as increases in a shawl or for raglan sweaters, or just because they indeed are the designers preferred method of increasing. I like them, too.

Others don’t.

If you belong to these ‘others’ and you do not like them because you get confused by the instructions and never can tell which is which, let me just say: It is always the opposite.

Now, let’s get to it.

There are only four words that are really important: LEFT and RIGHT, as well as FRONT and BACK.

First up is M1L:

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With your LEFT hand needle pick up the bar between two stitches from the FRONT.

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Then knit that stitch you just made into the BACK.

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There, M1L done.

Now M1R:

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With your LEFT hand needle pick up the bar between two stitches from the BACK.

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Then knit that stitch into the FRONT (i.e. as you would any other stitch).

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That’s your M1R.

There, I have made my point. It is always the opposite. When the strand is picked up from the back, you knit it from the front (regular), if it is picked up from the front, you knit it in the back.

As you might have noticed, the picked up stitch get twisted by knitting it into the front or back, hereby closing the hole that you would create otherwise. Also, if you have trouble picking up the bar with your left hand needle, let the right hand needle help out. Just make sure you transfer the bar properly so the stitch is going to point into the correct (I almost wrote ‘right’ – not really helpful, I know) direction.

Here is how it looks in the knitted fabric:

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On the left you see M1R, on the right M1L. They slant towards the direction the increase is named for.

Increase away! No more excuse to get lost!

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Running in Circles

No, not me. My knitting!

Ever since we received a shipment of Schoppel Wolle’s Gradient I had the urge to knit with it. Made of 100%  merino it is super soft and I do love the colour changes. As the name implies, they change gradually, so there is no abrupt end between two shades. I couldn’t see myself knitting another cowl or scarf (honestly, my mind is in Spring, though my wardrobe is not) so it took a while to get where I am now.

I’m knitting a necklace. Seriously. Look:

Gradient Necklace

I do think it is the perfect solution for when the days are not freezing anymore but are too warm for a ‘real’ scarf or cowl. I used Gradient #1701 – a mix of primary colours with some white. This is still a work in progress, I might add another loop or two.

There is of course another reason I am knitting on this particular design: It uses the knitted cast-on. While I usually prefer the long-tail method, it does not work for everything. So here we go with the instructions for the knitted cast-on.

The circles are knit making use of the fact that Stockinette Stitch fabric tends to curl. Other times you might be annoyed with that fact, today we rely on it. All  you have to do is cast on 120 sts, knit 5 rounds and then bind off 110 sts. 10 sts remain. Now you have to cast on for the second circle. (The ‘in progress’ pictures were taken using Gradient #2095.)

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110 stitches are bound off and the remaining 10 stitches are knit.

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To cast on more stitches you have to turn the work.

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Insert your right hand needle and knit.

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Instead of leaving the new stitch on the right hand needle, insert your left hand needle from below and slip the stitch on the needle.

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Then start again. Do this until you have cast on the required amount of sts.

There. Not hard to do if one knows how, eh?

The pattern works as follows: Cast on the required amount of stitches, work 5 rounds, bind off stitches until 10 remain. *Cast on until you have 10 stitches more than for circle just worked. Close to round and work 5 rows. Bind off until 10 stitches remain. Repeat from * until you have the desired number of circles. Then bind off all stitches. Weave in ends.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Too Short? Never* again.

*I know. Never say never.

There is one question I get asked over and over. “Which is the best way to cast on?”

I don’t think that there is the ‘best’ way to cast on, having said that, my preferred method of casting on is the long-tail cast on. It gives you a nice edge, it is stretchy, it does not look sloppy like other methods sometimes do.

There is a small – or rather: tiny – draw back to this method: It is called ‘long-tail’ because you have to leave enough yarn to be able to cast on the amount of stitches you need. I mostly end up with too much yarn left over – which I definitely prefer to not having enough and having to start over!

However, there are some tips and tricks to make sure you have enough yarn to begin with. Let’s say you have to cast on 100 stitches. Take the end of the yarn and start winding it around your needle. No, not a hundred times, ten times is enough. Then measure that length nine times more. Voila, enough yarn to cast on 100 stitches. If you really want to be sure that you have enough, leave an extra 6″ for weaving in.

Remember my post about a looser cast-on? If you are going for a really loose cast-on, you have to leave a longer tail because you are using up more yarn. In this case just use a larger needle (one size larger should do it, when in doubt, two sizes) to measure your ‘tail’.

If you have to cast on a really large number of stitches (I would say anything around 200 or more), there is even a way to never run out of yarn! And I am going to show you how. Right now.

You need two balls of the yarn you want to work with – or if you have wound it with a ball winder, just take the outside end together with the end from the inside. Make a slip knot with both yarns. (For demonstration purposes I am going to use two different colours.)

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Then start casting on as you would regularly.

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In this case the orange yarn would be your ‘tail’.

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The ‘tail’ makes for a nice edge.

After casting on the required amount of stitches (do NOT count the slip knot!) slide the slip knot off the needle and undo it.

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Now you cut the orange yarn (in your case the strand that made the edge) and start knitting with the other strand! There will be two more ends to weave in, but that is a low price to pay for never running out of yarn, don’t you think?

I am going now to cast on 200+ stitches for a new Espace Tricot design. Guess which method I am going to use?

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Classified

There are many, many knitting patterns out there. So are yarns. We cannot carry all of them. However, we are pretty good at finding substitutes.

For some patterns it is easier (worsted weight anyone? we have lots!) for others we have to be on our toes and think around the corner. In most cases we do find a yarn that pleases and fits any bill. I think it is a good idea to tell you how it is done, it is not a trade secret that I cannot reveal, it is a lot to do with labels, composition and a calculator. Scared yet?

First of all, thanks to some industry revolution in the yarn business – I do hope it wasn’t bloody! – we have nowadays a systematic to classifiy yarns into several categories, which itself is an enormous help when you are looking for a substitute. I mean, there always has been a certain system, but with the arrival of modern yarns and so many options how yarn can be produced (yes, spinning is still one very good option, then again: ever heard of that yarn that was blown away? I’m not kidding.) it needed something better.

In the old system there was 4ply, 6ply, 8ply, 10ply, 12ply; the more plies, the thicker the yarn. Makes sense, eh? Enter the novelty yarns. Oy vey. No plies to be had. So one very clever soul (or maybe a lot of them) came up with the idea of grouping the yarn into gauge-related groups. Which makes total sense. I am not saying this system is flawless, I have often disagreed with it, but it is much better than having to figure it out the old way.

Now there are names for the different yarn weights. And those names are associated with gauge. Here is the list, starting with the thinnest yarns:

Cobweb  – Often a single ply yarn, though not necessarily. You’ll need a really small needle to knit this up at the gauge recommended: Anything from 32 to 42 stitches per 4″ is game, if it is lace you knit with it, it might be less stitches per 4″.

Lace – (2ply) Essentially two plies of cobweb yarn. Of course there will be differences in the actual thickness, the gauge ranges from whatever the lace pattern calls for up to 32 stitches per 4″.

Light Fingering – (3ply) Something between Lace and Fingering; I wager the gauge is between 28 and 32 stitches.

Fingering – (4ply); gauge ranges from 26 to 32 stitches. There is no separate category for sock yarns, though most of them are fingering weight.

Sport – (5ply); slightly thicker than Fingering this yarn knits up at gauges ranging from 23 to 26 stitches.

DK (Double Knit) – (8ply); this yarn usually knits up to a gauge of 21 to 23 stitches per 4″.

Worsted Weight – (10ply) There are so many worsted weights out there that it seems necessary to even categorize into ‘light worsted’ and ‘heavy worsted’. Worsted weight yarns knit up from 17 to 20 stitches per 4″.

Aran – (10ply); Slightly thicker than worsted weight this yarn knits up at 15-17 stitches per 4″.

Bulky – (12ply); knits up from 12-14 stitches per 4″

Anything bigger than that is categorized into ‘Super Bulky‘ – and yes, it knits up in anything less than 12 stitches per 4″.

The gauges given are referring to Stockinette Stitch swatches knit up with the recommended needle sizes.

Let me just mention at this point that if you feel discouraged by this load of information and think “I’ll never be able to remember all of this!” – I only encountered all of the above about 8 years ago when I started working for a designer and later on for a yarn company and had to learn it, too!

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Yarns according to their classification.

A knitting pattern usually specifies the category of yarn it is knit in. If it doesn’t, gauge can be an indicator. I cannot neglect to mention that when we are not sure of the category of the yarn we refer to ravelry.com and their huge yarn data base. As I have specified in a former post, there can be a discrepancy between gauge in pattern and on the label. Always check the needle size the pattern is knit in – it often gives an explanation for any difference.

The second clue to a successful substitution is the composition of the yarn. If it is 100% wool it is usually straightforward. If it is a mix, there are some factors to be considered. We’ll always point those out to make your decision easier. For example, a sweater knit in a bulky wool yarn is not as heavy as the same sweater in a cotton. Amongst other things this can affect the fit. A sweater knit in a very drapey yarn looks different knit up in mohair. Having said all this, in the end the decision is up to you and your likings.

Lastly, check the yardage. Here is where the calculator comes into play. Once you have found a yarn you would like to work with, check the yardage of the pattern in the size you want to knit. For example: The pattern asks for 10 50g balls of XX with a yardage of 126 per ball. Meaning you need 1260 yds to knit the sweater. The yarn you chose has 145 yards per ball, so how many balls do you need? Take your calculator and divide 1260 by 145. The result is 8.69. Since we cannot sell you 8.69 balls of a yarn, you would have to buy 9 balls of said yarn to complete the sweater in your size.

As you can see now, there is no secret to figuring out which yarn works with the pattern you chose. It is more or less fact checking – facts you get from the yarn, pattern and – if needed – the internet. One of our tricks: If the pattern is listed on ravelry, check what yarns other people used to knit it. Which I still consider “fact checking”!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Charting it out

I am a very visual person. This means that when it comes to knitting patterns – be it lace or a knit/purl pattern – I prefer looking at charts to the written out pattern. The next person might insist on having a written out pattern (I have known knitters who would sit down and write out the chart if the pattern wouldn’t provide that) because the chart just isn’t what they need.

When I look at a chart, I can actually see how my knitting is supposed to look, where as a ‘k2, ssk, yo, k4, yo, k2tog’ etc. etc. and many rows more look convoluted and if not confusing, at least laborious. As with a lot of things in knitting, there is no ‘better’ way for all of us, there is only preference. I am ok if you prefer the written pattern to a chart, however given the choice I will always choose the chart to follow myself.

Having said all this, you need to have some vital information before diving into the exciting world of knitting charts and, as usual, I hope to provide just that!

Spoiled as we are in this day and age, a lot of patterns actually provide both – a chart and written out pattern. And for both you need the information what the abbreviations (the very own lingo of knitters) mean. So check the pattern for the Legend. What is interesting in this regard, is that the same or similar symbols are used internationally. This means that if you stumble upon an Italian/German etc. pattern with a chart you are probably able to work out the chart even though you do not understand anything else.

Here is an example of how it could look like: Legend for chart flat

As you can see, there is an explanation for the Right Side and the Wrong Side – which can be helpful when the pattern is knit flat.

Other times the legend might look like this:Legend for chart

Here is only the information what to do on the Right Side given – you have to figure out yourself that a knit stitch on the RS needs to be purled on the WS, etc. etc. A bit more thinking involved in this one, but if you consider the consequences for a bit not difficult to grasp. Unless there is no WS, meaning you knit in the round. Then you do exactly as described.

For all the knitters who prefer the written word, here is the pattern for the little lace pattern I have chosen as an example.

First up when knit flat:Pattern flat

Now the written pattern when knitting in the round:Pattern circular

Both of them are easy to follow if you just do what it says. However, if you do not follow a chart it is necessary to check the pattern about the number of repeats worked across how many stitches. In this case the repeats are not included in the written pattern, you are going to have to work that out yourself with help of the rest of the pattern.

Now comes my favourite part. CHARTS!

What you need to know first, is that you begin to read a chart on the lower right. It does make sense if you imagine looking at your knitting – you begin to knit on the right edge, so imagine looking at the RS of your knitting when looking at a chart.

Chart flatSee where the it says 1? That is where you begin to knit. Using the information you gathered from the legend you just follow it box by little box. Now check out where the 2 is located. On the left, exactly. So when you knit the WS, you begin from there. You will know after checking out the legend, that you are going to have to knit the first two stitches to make them look like purl on the RS.

Knitting in the round changes this order. Stockinette Stitch in the round you achieve by only knitting. This in return means there is no WS to speak of. Which again means for the chart you always begin reading the rows on the right side of the chart. Like so:

Chart in the round

Sometimes it is not enough to work the chart once, that’s when you find repeats. How do you know what the repeat is? Take a look at either the legend, or in this case the notes:

Notes

This provides the information that the seven stitches inside the box form the repeat. The pattern is going to tell you how often to work it. Either by providing the number of repeats or saying ‘repeat until there are two stitches left’ which would mean the two last stitches to complete the pattern according to the chart.

Now put it together and you get this:

Whole pattern

This is of course only an example of how a chart can look like. There are a lot of subtle variations in all of the patterns available. What I always recommend, read the pattern carefully, have a good look at the chart, check for repeats and if there is patterning only on the RS or maybe also on the WS. And then, off you go.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Too tight? Let loose!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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It just so happens that last week I have been asked the same question a couple of times. Funny how that goes. Anyways, the question was “What to do about a too tight cast on edge?”. I have to admit, using the long-tail cast-on method it rarely happens to me that the edge is actually too tight – but there are occasions where you want to add some extra stretch, and I am going to tell you how.

I have been told often that to get a looser edge you use two needles to cast-on. Indeed, the whole shebang will be looser, though maybe not in a way you intended.

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First up: What I like to call ‘regular’ cast-on with one needle.

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This is a cast-on using two needles.

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Have a close look at the stitches of the first row.

You can see in this picture that there is looseness indeed – though not in the cast-on edge where you wanted it but in the first row. See how the stitches of the cast on are elongated? Not a good look.To prove a point, have a look at both versions viewed from the purl side.

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On the top you see the purl side of knitting done with a regular cast-on, below is the same done with a cast-on on two needles. See the gap between edge and first row? This means the whole row is loose, while the cast-on is just as tight as before.

To remedy the problem of a too tight cast-on you have to do the following:

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Loose long-tail cast-on. Stitches are spaced further apart compared to the ‘regular’ version.

To get a looser cast-on edge, all you have to do is space the stitches further apart. When casting on with the long-tail method, you have two strands of yarn to work with – the end (or long tail) forms the underside of the stitches, whereas the part that leads to the yarn itself forms the stitches. This means you need a bit longer tail to make the space between the stitches larger, which takes a bit of practice but is easily done.

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As you can see in this picture, the ‘regular’ cast-on on top looks exactly the same as the looser one below.

The further you space the stitches apart, the looser the cast-on will be without creating the gap that casting on with two needles would. Have a go at it and you will see it is easier than you thought to let loose!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Decoding Knitting Patterns

Today there is no picture. Today is all about the written word!

While they don’t really use secret code, knitting patterns can appear as written in one. It can be especially daunting when the project involves new techniques, something you have never tried before but is essential to the design. This is what I am talking about today.

The conscientious knitter starts reading through the pattern, as often recommended, and soon feels quite uncomfortable because there is so much the knitter does not understand. Right there in the second paragraph the knitter is stumped by an explanation that ABSOLUTELY does not make sense. Doubt sets in. “Will I be able to do this? This is much too complicated.” Reading further only confirms what was already suspected: “This is too difficult, I cannot do this.” and the lovely lace shawl/sweater/cowl (insert accordingly) pattern gets discarded and the knitter goes back to what she knows.

This is quite a sad story, don’t you think? I know I cannot set a benchmark for what you should knit, but I do know about patterns. I can tell you ‘this is not a difficult but rather tedious technique’ (see the difference?), ‘this lace pattern is not difficult as long as you make sure you pay attention and count’ (so it is not TV knitting, but absolutely doable) – you only have to be willing. Willing to try and willing to learn.

Just to clarify, I am not talking about abbreviations used in knitting like CO, BO, k, p, k2tog etc., what I am talking about is paraphrasing the pattern itself.

Let’s start with very common use of phrases you are going to read in a lot of patterns:

Work in pattern/evenly until piece measures xx inches  This means that the piece should measure a certain length before you go to the next step in the pattern; please measure somewhere in the middle of your knitted piece and NOT along one edge. Edges tend to be a bit looser (hence: longer) than the rest of the knitting and you could be lulled into thinking you are already there, while when measured in the middle you are missing 3/4 of an inch. “In pattern” means do exactly what you have done so far, be it stockinette stitch, seed stitch or a cable pattern, just continue as started. ‘

…ending with a WS row means exactly what it says: stop knitting after finishing the wrong side row. Then do whatever the pattern says next.

*Knit to last 3 sts before marker, ssk, k1, sl m, k1, k2tog; rep from * 3 times more This is a very common description of raglan decreases, though the * is often used to describe something that needs to be repeated. You do as the pattern says, once you have arrived at ‘k2tog’ you start over at ‘knit to…’ until you have worked the required number of repeats, in this case 3.

Repeat these two rows 4 times Read with care and figure out exactly what needs doing: you have worked 2 rows as instructed, be it decreases, increases or something else completely, and the pattern asks you to repeat what you did 4 times more. There.

Repeat decrease row every 2nd/every other row 3 times more, then every 4th row 7 times more I picked decreases, it could be increases or any other shenanigan of the pattern, what it means though is: you just worked a decrease row, most probably on the right side of the knitting, since this is where decreases are usually worked, you are going to knit a wrong side row (which would be the ‘other’ or ‘2nd’ row), and then repeat your decrease row. You do that until the number (3 here) are complete. Then you work another decrease row, but instead of just knitting 1 wrong side row, you are going to work 3 rows even before you decrease again.

Turn work I don’t know why, but this throws many people off balance. It means exactly what it says: turn the work. I think it is because we usually do it automatically, we read too much into it and think it means more than it does.

With RS of work facing and beginning at the lower edge of right front... Some knitters read this and something in their head goes ‘information overload! cannot process!!’ Not so. First information is ‘RS of work’ – now every knitter knows what the RS of their project is, so go from there. ‘Facing’ means you look at it. If you don’t look at it, it is not facing you. ‘Lower edge’ – if you have been knitting on it, you’ll know where the bottom and the top is located. Here we are looking for the bottom. ‘Of right front’ – now, I will admit that can a be a bit tricky when you overthink it. You want to locate the piece that makes up the right front of your knitting when you are wearing it. If you pick the right front while the piece is lying in front of you on the table you are sure to pick the LEFT. Once you get all this sorted out – and it is easier than you might have thought – off you go!

On beginning of next 4 rows BO 4 sts Other than decreases, bind-offs have to be worked at the beginning of the row. So at the beginning of the next row you bind off 4 sts, then you repeat that 3 times. Done.

Using (insert according method) do whatever This means the designer has found a method she or he particularly likes for this part of your knitting. It doesn’t mean that it is a better method all over, it just means at this particular point for this particular design it is a good thing to use. If it is something you have never done before, well, here’s your chance to widen your knowledge once again.

Most knitting patterns rely on the same information in one way or another. Sure, some are more complicated than others, but the more you try, the better and easier you are going to understand the subtle variations and will know how to deal with them.

One of the best examples for puzzling instructions is the garter tab pick up for the beginning of a lace shawl. If you have ever knit a triangle lace shawl there is a good chance you were stumped by instructions like these – which in return are describing a quite simple thing:

CO 3 stitches.

Knit 6 rows.

Turn work 90 degrees and pick up 3 stitches into garter ridge edge – 6 sts.

Turn work another 90 degrees and pick up 3 sts into cast-on edge – 9 sts.

When I have to do something like this I rely heavily on my experience and my common sense. Far be it from me to insinuate that knitters who do not understand these instructions have no common sense, I rather assume that they are so intimidated by them that it is just not available at this moment. I won’t deny that experience helps too, but then again instructions are written so that every one should be able to do whatever needs to be done.

What it essentially means is that you knit a little garter tab (knit 6 rows) and then pick up stitches on two more sides of this tab to add to the three that are already there. To do this you have to rotate your knitting so you get access with your needle to pick up stitches and that you do twice.

Yes, I know. It still sounds like ‘blah, blah, blah’, so sit down and do it! If it seems that what you want to do is different than described in the pattern, do it anyways. Use your common sense  – I know you have it! – to try what you think is right. Sometimes only trying and trying again will get you to understand what to do – especially when there is no one around to help just this minute. I know I am repeating myself, but because it is true: look up this or any other technique you are not sure about on youtube.

Another fact of my knitting life is that there are things I read in a pattern before I actually am at that point in my knitting and I go ‘HUH?’. Trust me when I say that most of these ‘huh’s’ go away on their own once your knitting has caught up and you realize that there is really just one way how to follow the instructions and that is how you are going to do it.

What you should never forget is that knitting gives you the perfect opportunity to try out things. If it is wrong you can undo. If you have to do it three, four or maybe even five times until you figure it out or it is perfected, that is ok also. And if you are really, really stuck – we’re ready to help!

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Tension about Gauge?

The word “gauge” alone can be intimidating – the first time I read it I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce it. It is one of these English words that are spelled one way and sound totally different when spoken out loud. (In case you are still wondering, or, if for you like me English is a second or maybe third language: say ‘gage’ and you’re good.) Gauge seems to be another secret part of the knitting lingo that can be easily debunked if you are willing to give it some thought.

Most patterns will tell you at what gauge (or tension) you are supposed to knit. This is good information. Information you need to knit a sweater (or hat or socks or…) that actually has the measurements given in the pattern and therefor fits you as intended. At the same time it is information that can be thoroughly confusing.

The reason is that the information you get from a yarn label can be quite different from the information for the same yarn given in a pattern. That happens not all the time yet often enough. Do not fear, there is an explanation.

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As you can see on this particular yarn label, there is actually a lot of intelligence to be gained. Beginning with the composition of the yarn (100% superwash merino), there is info about the weight (fingering), the yardage (420 yds), the gauge (26-30 sts/4″) and what needle size is recommended (2.25 – 2.5 mm). Then follows how to care for the yarn once it is knit up.

Let’s concentrate on two things: Gauge and recommended needle size.

What it means is if you use the needles recommended on the label, you will get gauge in the range mentioned on the label. I know that using a 2.25 mm needle with a fingering weight yarn I am going to have 28 stitches to 4 inches. I know that because I have done so a lot. It is a knitting experience gained over many projects. This is something nobody really can tell you, you are going to have to work that one out for yourself. The best thing to do is using the range of needles mentioned to knit up a swatch and then measure how many stitches per 4 inches you get. This in return is an indication about your tension, if you are a tight or loose knitter. There is no good or bad about it, it just tells you what needle size to use to get any specific number of stitches per inch.

Now, imagine you have bought this particular yarn to knit a lacy shawl. You did so because the pattern recommended to buy ‘fingering’ weight yarn. The pattern also states that the gauge is 20 stitches per 4 inches. Wait. What? The label says 26-30 stitches per 4 inches. How am I supposed to get 20? Easy. By using much larger needles. Probably a 4 or 4.5 mm needle, depending on what is recommended in the pattern and your personal gauge. Which you are going to have to determine by knitting up a swatch. There is no way around it. To be sure you are going to have to swatch and measure your gauge.

If you arrive at the correct number with the needle size recommended in the pattern, off you go and knit. If you have more stitches per 4 inches it means you are a tight knitter and you are going to have to use a larger needle size. If you have less stitches than needed, you are going to have to use smaller needles, because you are on the looser side, I know I usually have to go down a size.

As long as you have the weight of yarn recommended in the pattern and are able to get gauge (no matter the needle size, really) you are good to go. This is valid for all yarn weights, and that is also why swatching is so important. It’s personal, you know. Designers use that. They do whatever they like and knit up small yarns at large gauges and vice versa. Because we can. And it is fun. And gets us exactly what we want, even if the label says differently.

To recap: General information about gauge and what needle size to use can be found on the label. Specific information about the gauge of the pattern you chose the yarn for can be found in the pattern. To find out about your tension, swatch, swatch, swatch.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Of WIPs, UFOs and Whatnots

The year is still new, how about your knitting? Does it feel new and exciting also? Or could it be that you feel bogged down by one or other project that has been lingering on the needles forever and just won’t end?

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Please excuse the mess. And that’s not all of it.

With the arrival of the internet community and the communication of knitters worldwide, a new language (or lingo, if you will) has developed. I think it is mostly due to using SMS on mobile phones that people started abbreviating words, to save money and not having to type on the tiny number pads on the  phones too much. I remember chatting on AOL Instant Messaging (also: AIM) and starting to use silly acronyms like LOL and BRB. Then came Twitter and words got even more abbreviated, if that’s even possible. (Sometimes I have to think hard what a specific abbreviation means, then again, English is not my first language and so far I have been able to figure it all out – sooner or later.) Anyways, I am babbling, what I really want to say is that there is a knitting lingo that talks of WIPs, UFOs and FOs, to name just a few. There’s more, but those three I am talking about today.

In case you are not familiar with these specific acronyms, here are the explanations:

WIP – Work In Progress

UFO – UnFinished Object

FO – Finished Object

If you are anything like me, you have up to five WIPs floating about, add one, two or three UFOs and you’d be close to what’s going on in my house. What’s the difference between WIP and UFO, you might ask? Well, a WIP is a project where you actually have to do more knitting, whereas a UFO describes a project when the knitting is done and just (ha, just!) needs finishing, like weaving in the ends, maybe grafting a toe on a sock, sewing up a sweater….anything that involves finishing work. In my opinion though any WIP that lingers too long gets promoted to a UFO, no matter what the status of the knitting is. At some point it is just UNFINISHED, no matter how much there is left to do.

I have often wondered why that happens. Usually when I start a project I am all enthusiastic, get a lot done in a few days. Sometimes this enthusiasm lingers (it is easier when I have a lot of time to knit) other times it wanes really fast. I also know that the longer the UFO sits around, the less I feel like picking it up and actually finishing it. There must be a psychological explanation for this, but I won’t even try to go there. That’s just how it is, and I have grudgingly accepted the necessity of dealing with it. One way or the other.

Now comes the part where I spill the good tips. I am oh so full of good tips. Doesn’t mean I myself follow them all the time, but I want you to know that there are ways to deal with the mess.

First thing you want to do is get all  your WIPs and UFOs together. Put them all out there. Then have a good look what needs to be done. Sometimes it is less than one might think, and takes only a short time. Ask yourself a few questions:

– Do I really want to finish this? Or am I over it?

If the answer to the first part is ‘no’, the answer to the second half is most probably ‘yes’. In that case, rip. Undo it. Use the yarn for something you will love. (This is what I love about knitting, you can actually get a fresh start!) Learn how to let go, I find it can feel quite liberating.

If the answer to the first part is ‘yes’ do not try to figure out why you stopped knitting on it. Unless you made a huge mistake and tossed it aside because you are afraid of fixing it (more on that later) you won’t ever find out why you stopped. I know I never do. Pick up where you left off (sometimes that involves excessive studying of the pattern, for me too) and try to get back into the groove! The old feels new again and the UFO will be promoted to a FO in no time.

– What in the world was I thinking when I started this ___ ? (insert fair isle sweater, afghan, chair cover…you get my drift)

You probably fell in love seeing it in a magazine, online or even as a store sample and thought it would be great to have one of your own. If you still feel that way and you know there is yet a lot of work, make a  plan how to progress from here.

I find it helps to knit really big projects in smaller increments. Yes, it will take longer, but bit by bit it is not so hard. If it is an afghan with really long rows, decide how many rows you can stand knitting and how much time you can spend working on them. Then do that every day. You will be surprised how fast you are at the end of whatever it is. Do it before you pick up what you really want to knit on. That you get to do as a reward for finishing two rows on the neverending blanket. I have done this many times, it takes a bit of determination, but it is absolutely doable.

– How in the world am I ever going to fix that mess I made?

So you made that huge mistake only to find out 20 rows later and you tossed it aside to be…what? It won’t fix itself, I promise you that. Fixing mistakes is like knitting. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I always say that ‘reading’ your knitting is the best way to figure out what is wrong, and one way to ‘read’ is to undo what is knit and watch closely what happens when the stitches are undone. That is how I am still learning, believe it or not.

Having said all this, fixing can mean different things. Sometimes it can be fixed by dropping a stitch down a couple of rows. Other times you might have to rip out a few inches of knitting. The good news: it can be fixed if you are willing to re-do. That is the most important part. Be prepared to re-knit.

– I am all done knitting, now I have to do one or other thing and no clue how.

My first go-to when I don’t know how: the Internet. And, yes, it just so happens that even I don’t know how. The good news in this case: one can always learn! I find life is so much easier when  you are willing to learn. Doesn’t mean learning is always easy.

If you have a knitting question and access to the internet, go to youtube.com, type in whatever you need to know (like: knitting stretchy bind off, for example) and see how many helpful videos show up. If you do not get it the first time, you can watch it over and over again.

Books are helpful, too. Let’s not forget about books. Or ask a friend who knits and might be able to help. Of course you can ask us at the store also, but we’re not open 24/7 – youtube is.

To me, these four are the big reasons I toss a project aside, of course there are many more – most of them we cannot explain and we do not have to. The most important part is to not let the knitting drag you down, that is not how it is meant to be. Knitting is meant to entertain and give you joy, especially when you are able to present a new FO. You, just like me, are going to get a kick out of showing off that FO, and that is going to kick you into gear to finish another. Right? Right!

– Mona

Round And Round We Go

I’m sure you, just as myself, have those moments when we feel we’re running in circles. No matter how hard we try, at the end of the day we seem to be just where we started.

That is NOT what I mean to talk about. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about knitting in small circumferences, i.e. socks, mitts, gloves etc. In this case, going in circles is good. You just have to figure out which method is to your liking and most comfortable for your style of knitting.

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I just finished my “Blocks of Color Scarf” knit with 6 skeins of  ‘Road to China light’ in the round  on 16″ circular needles – I keep wearing it inside because it is soo soft. Going round and round can indeed be good!!

During my teaching experience I have come across a lot of fear of double pointed needles. They seem to be especially intimidating in smaller sizes, like 2.25 mm which I like to use for knitting socks. Granted, they look thin and pointy, slightly dangerous, but once you know how to use them there is really nothing to it. Or so I think. Other knitters vehemently disagree. It might have to do with the fact that I am knitting in the Continental Style (meaning I carry the yarn on my left hand) as opposed to knitting English Style, where you carry, or rather throw, the yarn with the right hand.

The larger percentage of my students are using double pointed needles quite happily after practicing their use. Then again, there are some who never come to terms with them and, lo and behold, there are solutions to that problem, too.

Double pointed needles come in various lengths. When I started knitting socks I just used what was already in my Mom’s needle stash, which would be a set of five needles, 20 cm (8″) long and 2.5 mm in size. This worked for me for years. Until I moved to the US and discovered US size 1 needles, which are just slightly smaller at 2.25 mm and gave my a bit tighter tension on my socks – which I think is PERFECT. The only problem was that the sets arrived in FOUR needles instead of five and I had to buy two packages. (I’m sure there is a reason for that, historically speaking, nowadays most sets come with five needles – most modern patterns are written for five.)

My new needles were also shorter than my old ones, which I found I liked. I had never really thought about it, but them being shorter did make a difference, and I do like using 15 cm (6″) long needles for knitting socks also, though my favourite needles to use are 7″.

You can find even shorter double pointed needles on the market: 12 cm (5″) and 10 cm (4″). Those are meant for really tiny circumferences, like fingers on a glove, or if you will, smaller socks for babies and kids. I found them quite helpful before Christmas when I knit a lot of doll clothes. I will admit, however, that I mainly use 5″ since I have big hands and the ends of the 4″ needles poke me in the heel of the hand which is quite uncomfortable.

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From the top down: 7″ metal dpns, 6″ lacquered wood dpns, 5″ birch dpns. They are all the same size, 2.25 mm.

I am a staunch believer in double pointed needles, I think knitters should at least know how to work with them to make an educated decision about using them or not. In my opinion nothing beats the formation of a sock on double pointed needles,  to me there is a rhythm and certain symmetry to it that cannot be achieved with any other method.

Of course I do not insist on you using dpns if you ABSOLUTELY do not want to. Thankfully there are other options. Needle producers have come up with really short circulars, as short as 23 cm (9″). There are also 30 cm (12″) circulars to be had, which (I will happily admit to that) I sometimes like to use for knitting sleeves. I do not use the 9″ circs, they are too small for my style of knitting, I cannot arrange my hands to knit in my usual style, and my fingers cramp up when using them. Having said all that, I know a few knitters who swear by them and use them happily ever after.

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Short circular needles: 23 cm (9″) on top, 30 cm (12″) below. Both size 2.25 mm.

Some inventive knitters (I do not know who came up with them first) have even found methods to not have to buy any dpns or short circulars at all – instead they use two regular circulars or use the “magic loop” method, for which any needle 80 cm (32″) or longer is suitable. (I cannot help myself but tell you that I do not like using either, having said as  much I have to clarify that these methods are NOT worse methods of knitting, but a personal preference!) You can find great instructional videos on youtube.com if you are interested in learning them.

Round and Round

Top left: 5 double pointed needles – the stitches are evenly distributed on four needles and you knit with the fifth. 

Top right: 23 cm (9″) circular needle – knitting the leg and the foot on the small circulars you still need double pointed needles for the heel and the toe

Bottom left: two circular needles – the stitches are distributed on two circular needles and are knit in turns on each, the system is similar to the method of the double pointed needles

Bottom right: magic loop method – you need a long needle, 80 cm (32″) or longer; I find the success of this method relies heavily on a very supple/flexible cable on your needle (mine was a bit thick and inelastic)

Whatever you decide your preferred method of knitting small circumferences in the round is or will be, all necessary tools are available at the store!

– Mona

Naughty or nice?

Today is Sankt Nikolaus, the day where kids either find goodies in their boots they put out the night before or get visited at night by Nikolaus who kept book about them being naughty or nice and brings a switch (or: birch, which was for whipping) for the not so nice ones. Sounds familiar? Yeah, I guess this is where folks got the idea for Santa and the stockings while in Germany – at least the part where I come from – the Christkind visits on Christmas Eve and brings (more) presents.

                                                                                      (photo from here)

I am not going to ask if you behaved this year, instead, I am going to talk about the swatches for your knitting and ask how they did. Naughty or nice? I’m pretty sure you’ll say “that depends” – if you swatched at all, I mean.

As a habit I swatch for almost every project. Most importantly for sweaters or garments of any kind, sometimes when gauge is not so important I swatch to see how the yarn behaves when knit up. Hats! Please swatch for hats, or else you’ll end up knitting a beret three times, because the first time it was too small, the second it fit Big Foot and…you get the picture.  Ask me how I know.

Secondly, depending on what you knit with, i.e. wool, alpaca, cashmere (mmmmh…), silk etc. you want to know how the knitted item is going to behave after it is worn and washed. I mean, there comes the time when any knitted thing needs a bath. And if you do not know what happens to the knitted fabric once you get it soaked (heh, get it?) there might be naughty, naughty surprises. Which are not a reflection on the quality of the yarn you used. Please do not blame the yarn, it cannot help it. It will react in its given nature, you just have to know what to look for and to realize what to expect from its behaviour.

Granted, if you use wool, there won’t be much of a surprise. Usually. Unless it is superwash. Superwash means in general that the wool is treated in a way that it can be washed in the washing machine – on the gentle or hand wash cycle, not just any regular cycle. This process means that the yarn itself is coated in a thin, thin layer of some or other kind of polymer, or plastic if you will, to avoid the felting during the washing. This in return means that superwash yarn can react differently to water than your average 100% wool. I have experienced stretching, softening, loosening of swatches knit with superwash yarn. Which means the gauge can change also. See? A garment knit in a gauge that hasn’t been proofed by washing the swatch might turn out too loose and big after the first real wash. I am not saying it has to every time, but it could.

I for one wash swatches of yarns in doubt. Lay them flat to dry (unless you need blocking – for a lace gauge for example) and then measure. Sometimes the stitch count does not change, but the row count is suddenly much lower. Which is not a bad thing per se, but consider a sweater: it will still fit, but might be about 10 cm/4″ longer now. Unless you grew with it, that might pose a problem.

Silliness aside: the yarn amount in the pattern should provide enough yarn to swatch, and leave the swatch to wash and do whatever you need to do with it. If not, the pattern should explicitly mention that yarn for swatching is not allotted.

So, knitters, time to get serious! Wash your swatches. Do it right the first time!

– Mona

 

Swirling along and joining as I go

I’m thinking in comparison to our Big News of moving next door my post today is going to be quite lame – unless you always wanted to know how to use the Russian Join? (I have long given up on figuring out why something is called “German”, “Russian” or “English” – wondering about names is just futile.)

Anyways, I am knitting away on the “Coat of many Colors” and it is going swimmingly – if you consider you have to join a different color 5 times in 10 rows that seems to be a bit surprising, no? Think about all the ends to weave in! Yikes. That is why even the designer recommends to join the yarns in a way that the ends are worked into the fabric right away, and you do not have to deal with a gazillion of them before being able to put on your coat.

As with many things in knitting this joining of yarns is not for every project and every yarn – in this case I do think it justified, especially since I m working with multicoloured yarn that hides the joins very well. You might have seen the yarn kits for the coat in the store and wondered how the different skeins would be combined. Well, the pattern specifies a stripe sequence and in part of that sequence you have to switch colour every row.

You’ll need a tapestry needle as small as possible for your working yarn. I like to have a tail of about 6-8″.

The smaller the needle, the more accurate the work.

Loop ends of yarn around each other as shown.

Insert needle into yarn as shown.

Do that for about 2″ – the yarn will be scrunched up on the needle.

Pull needle through and off the yarn, leave yarn scrunched.

Cut end of yarn – not straight but so it tapers to a tip.

Pull on yarn to straighten the scrunched part – make sure you hold on to the joined yarn on the other end or it will slip out.

The end is secured ‘inside’ the yarn and barely shows.

Repeat on second end of yarn towards the other side.

Voila, a Russian Join.

Where the yarn is joined it has double the thickness – I like to pull really tight when knitting to make up for that fact. While it is not ‘invisible’, the join is barely noticeable.

I find the Russian Join lends itself to joining multicoloured or variegated yarn, yarn with multiple plies so that you can ‘hide’ the end ‘inside’.

That’s all I’ve got for today – let’s see what I can come up with next week!

– Mona

You’ll need a crochet hook

pro-vi-sion-al (adj)

Provided or serving only for the time being.

Lately I have been coming across the provisional cast-on a lot. Three projects of mine started with one, customers have been bringing in projects and needed explanations for it – so I thought that is reason enough to show you how to do one.

As the definition says so well, we use an provisional cast-on only for the time being, meaning once the project is done, the cast-on will be undone and finished in one or the other way. Ususally the live stitches are either picked up to add some more knitting, or they are grafted with kitchener stitch to the live stitches of the other end of your knitting to achieve what is called a ‘seamless’ effect. In reality it is not really seamless, it only seems that way (ha, see what I did here?) since grafting is actually a seam, just a nearly invisible one. Confused yet?

Anyways, if you are ever in need of a provisional cast-on, here is the method I would recommend to first time users. With the crochet chain method your knitting sits secured until you actually pull it out for finishing. Also, the actual undoing of the cast-on is very easy – when done correctly.

Let’s get started!

Check your instructions for the amount of stitches to be cast-on provisionally. Take some yarn that is a size bigger that what you are working with (if you are using worsted, try a chunky; if you are using lace, a fingering will do – etc.  etc.) and a matching crochet hook. This is not strictly necessary but it does make things easier. Now make a crochet chain with about 10 stitches more than needed.

My number is random, as it is just for demonstration purposes.

On the left you see the right side of the crochet chain, it looks like a braid. Ignore this side for now. On the right you see the wrong side, or back, of the crochet chain with the all important bumps. 

According to your pattern and with your knitting needle, pick up the stitches into these bumps as needed.

This is the important part – make sure you only pick up into these bumps! 

The front of the chain should still look like this. The braid needs to be untouched.

Once  you have picked up as needed, proceed with your pattern as written. I’ll just knit a bit of Stockinette Stitch.

Ready to rip?

You have to undo your crochet from the last chain.

While unzipping your crochet chain, pick up the newly revealed stitches with another needle.

One stitch at a time. Otherwise you might lose one.

There. Ready for whatever comes next.

To re-cap some helpful hints:

– use a yarn of a larger gauge for your crochet chain, it makes picking up the stitches easier

– chain a few stitches more than you actually have to cast on

– make sure you only pick up stitches into the back loops (bumps) of the chain

– when unzipping the chain, pick up one stitch at a time

So, what are you still doing here? Go, find a project to try out a new skill – like these cute hats from Wooly Wormhead for example. Patterns for these two and more available in store.

– Mona

Tassels – how do they work?

Tassel or tassle? What do you think?

As I have said two weeks ago, all that is left do to on my – that is, Hannah’s – “Capucine” are the tassels.

I have tried to make some from what I remembered, I have to admit that making tassels is not on my daily agenda. Turns out practice makes perfect, as is true for almost everything.

What you need:

A flat piece of cardboard the size you want to make the tassel – I actually used a cd case, one of the flat ones. Also, yarn – either the same as the project, or whatever you want.

Cut a shorter piece of yarn and lay across your template. Then start winding the yarn around and around.

I wound my yarn around 35 times. Now take the short end that you have so cleverly arranged before and tie a knot, pulling as tightly as you can.

Centering the knot on the upper edge, take scissors and cut the yarn carefully along the lower edge.

An almost finished tassel!

Cut another piece of yarn (long enough that when tied the halves are as long as the tassel or a bit longer) and tie around the upper part of the tassel. Pull as tight as you can and secure with a knot.

And here’s your tassel.

If needed, trim the the strands to same length. (Just don’t do as I did, in the effort to cut to exactly the same length my first tassel shrunk considerably!) Now attach to your project with the strands of the upper knot.

TADAA!

See you next week.

– Mona